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“Kira.” The word emerged from both my and Gunner’s lips in perfect synchrony, but we didn’t have time to gaze meaningfully into each other’s eyes. Instead, I sprinted down the hallway, sword materializing in my hand in a blaze of blue-tinted glory even as Gunner rounded the corner three steps faster and dove into the melee of angry wolves.
Because, despite their alpha’s ultimatum moments earlier, two-thirds of the pack had donned their fur forms and turned their teeth into weapons the second they felt threatened. Those still human were more obedient but no less dangerous—they’d grabbed up cutlery, some of it as long as my forearm.
Meanwhile, the entire room smelled like a forgotten egg factory, the scent even worse here than it had been beside Edward in the hall. How did everyone manage to go against a direct order from their pack leader? Did Gunner forget to imbue his words with alpha compulsion? The questions hovered over me like a foul-smelling storm cloud. But I pushed premonitions aside, hunting for my sister instead.
There she was…then there she wasn’t as she shivered down into the red fur of her fox. Ever since Kira had melded with our mother’s star ball, she’d been unruly and snarky and prone to shifting at the drop of a hat. Which wasn’t helpful in the current situation…but the chain of events also meant that her unusual fur form hadn’t been what set the werewolves off.
I waited only long enough to glimpse Tank—Gunner’s trusted second—tackling my sister and enfolding her in a werewolf burrito of protection before I thrust my way deeper into the crowd away from them. Because the growling mob wasn’t facing toward either me or Kira. Instead, they were pushing and shoving, trying to get into the kitchen, or perhaps through that to the dining room beyond.
Mindful of the fact that these were supposedly my pack mates, I used my elbows and knees rather than my weapon to open up a pathway. But it was slow going, teeth snapping and claws scraping as I pressed past. My favorite pair of jeans was going to be spaghetti by the time this was over…but on the plus side, Gunner would never know that Edward had been the one to leave a bruise on my upper arm.
With that heartening thought at the forefront, I thunked a werewolf on the nose with my sword hilt, taking advantage of the resulting pocket of space to press through the narrow doorway separating kitchen from living room. And my grin of triumph promptly faltered as I took in the scene on the other side.
Because there was a fox perched atop the stainless steel refrigerator. Its fur was puffed up like the pelt of a cornered cat while its body pressed back against the wall behind it. No wonder since a werewolf currently swiped toward it with human fingers, attempting to pull the stranger loose from its hiding place.
There were a dozen other werewolves in the room with a similar agenda. But I had interest only in the much smaller canine cowering above their heads. Because even though its fur was pitch black instead of blazing red like mine and my sister’s, I knew the moment our eyes made contact that this wasn’t any mere fox wandered in out of the forest who’d accidentally ended up in my new home.
No, this was a kitsune. A being the like of which I’d never met outside my own family. After all, what right-minded wild animal would willingly walk into a cottage full of wolves?
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